What Endures From the Ancient Civilizations That Once Ruled the Central Andes? | Travel | Smithsonian

The Inca highway network—the two main arteries and the mass of secondary courses that joined them—was arguably the biggest, most complex construction project ever undertaken. Running for 3,700 miles between Chile and Ecuador, about the distance from New York to Paris, the backbone of the system cut through every imaginable landscape, from icy mountain peaks to tropical lowlands, from the world’s driest desert to one of its wettest forests. It astounded the Spaniards who saw it—the conquistador Pedro de Cieza de León said that the road through the Andes should be more famous than Hannibal’s route through the Alps. “In the memory of people I doubt there is record of another highway comparable to this,” he wrote in the 1540s. It was called the Qhapaq Ñan—which translates from the Quechua as “Road of the Lord.”